Thought Experiments

  • Michael T. StuartEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-98390-5_59-1
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Overview

Thought experiments – like Schrödinger’s cat and the trolley problem – are a way for inquirers to focus the power of the imagination. What makes a thought experiment different from fantasies and daydreams is that they aim to produce new knowledge, wisdom, understanding, illumination, or something like that. They typically also have a narrative structure, with a beginning, middle, and end. Usually there are several phases in a thought experiment: one in which we set up some imaginary scenario, another in which we “see” what happens in that scenario, and, finally, one in which we draw some conclusions. At this level of description, thought experiments are like laboratory experiments, except they are carried out in the imagination.

This entry will consider what thought experiments are, who performs them, how they have been investigated, what they aim to do, how they work, and how they connect to the possible.

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Keywords

Thought experiment Imagination Possibility Epistemology of imagination 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Wendy Ross
    • 1
  1. 1.Kingston UniversityKingstonUK